Victorious Federal soldiers; a number of well-dressed white men, some in top hats; a few women, including a a blurry figure of a woman in a bonnet, standing third from left in front of the building; and three figures behind a wooden barrier, at right, who appear to be Black pose in the front of the Virginia State Capitol after Confederate forces fled Richmond in April 1865. The neoclassical structure, completed in 1788, was designed by Thomas Jefferson with the assistance of Charles-Louis Clérisseau and based on a Roman temple, the Maison Carrée at Nîmes in southern France. Jefferson wrote to fellow Virginian James Madison, "We took for our model … one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful and precious morsel of architecture left us by antiquity."
The Capitol in Richmond served as the center of political power and civic ceremonies for the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. Union forces who took the city in the wake of the Confederate retreat used the Capitol as a headquarters in the early phase of the military occupation. After the war, the Capitol continued to serve as the seat of government for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The building—along with two wings added in the twentieth century—continues to house the oldest elected legislative body in North America, the Virginia General Assembly, first established as the House of Burgesses in 1619.